surviving members of Brainiac reformed for Bell House tribute w/ GvsB, Les Savy Fav & more (pics, video)
Saturday (12/9) at the Bell House was a show celebrating the music of the groundbreaking band Brainiac. Emerging from Dayton, Ohio in 1992, they pioneered a distinctly aggressive electronic/rock music attack that just kept growing in both sophistication and audience appreciation. They were absolutely loaded with talent and potential when lead singer Tim Taylor died in 1997. His tragic death shocked many friends and fans and ended an amazing career and life. Eric Mahoney, who has been working on a documentary about Brainiac and Tim Taylor, organized the show with Eli Janney from Girls Against Boys (who produced all three of Brainiac’s albums).
Things started off with a set from SAVAK — whose drummer Matt Schulz is cousins with Brainiac’s Tyler Trent — who ended with a cover of unreleased Brainiac song, “Sugar Coma.” Next up was onetime Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur who read a story about Tim Taylor. Up next was The Heist, aka The 8 G Band from The Late Show with Seth Meyers that included Janney, Seth Jabor (Les Savy Fav), Matt Schulz, and Geoff Sanoff (Edsel). They led a tribute set featuring a bunch of guest vocalists, including Charles Bissell (The Wrens) with author/poet Nicole Blackman (who used to be publicist for Brainiac, The Wrens and Edsel), Travis Morrison (The Dismemberment Plan), Peter Aaron (Chrome Cranks), and LSF’s Tim Harrington. They were also joined on guitar by John Schmersal who was in Brainiac (and Enon, Caribou and others).
Then came a reunion of all the surviving members of Brainiac — Tyler Trent (drums), Juan Monasterio (bass), John Schmersal (guitar) — plus a friend, Tim, on guitar and keyboards. They were joined on vocals by Gregg Foreman (The Delta 72, Cat Power), original Brainiac guitarist Michelle Bodine, and another friend of theirs, Steve.
Girls Against Boys headlined the night, covering Brainiac’s “Ride” from the first album, and digging deep into their own catalog. In between sets, they screened tour videos and in the front room they were showing Brainiac videos. Pictures from the night are in the gallery above and a few instagram videos are below.
We also talked to both Eric Mahoney and Eli Janney who told us a little about both the upcoming documentary — which they hope to have out by the end of 2018 — and putting together the Bell House tribute show. Read that below.
I was born and raised in Dayton. During the mid 90’s I was in high school and started going to local shows which were becoming increasingly packed due to the innovative music scene that was emerging. Among the bands that absolutely floored me were Brainiac. They were the entire package, aggressive, frantic, funny, experimental, high energy and smart. They seemed (and sounded) like they were from Mars and they were from my hometown. Wanting desperately to become a musician myself I was immediately drawn in by their distinctive look and sound. They also made me believe that as a kid from a small midwestern city I could do that too. They were ambassadors of Dayton, and made me proud to be from there as well.
Last December I was thinking about new film projects have just wrapped up producing a feature length narrative, Madly, that opened at Tribeca and did the festival circuit. I’ve always had the idea of doing a Brainiac doc on the back burner but then I realized 2017 was 25 years since the band formed and 20 years since Tim’s tragic passing. The timing seemed right so I began reaching out to everyone to see if they were interested. Once the band and Tim’s family were on board I began a Kickstarter campaign which allowed me to shoot interviews all over the country and collect the footage I needed. After this I partnered with my friend and long time collaborator Ian Jacobs (of the Brooklyn band Monograms). He was immediately drawn into the project given his love of music and story. We discussed how this project should both a celebration of a group of amazing artists as well as a story about overcoming tragedy.
I initially reached out to Eli Janney and asked if he would act as a music director for the evening, leading the house band as well as headlining with Girls Against Boys. When he said yes I was thrilled and we planned the night for several months. I mainly let Eli handle rehearsals / set lists and was completely floored at how amazing the music was. Ian and I curated music videos for the front room, screened homemade tour movies shot by GVSB between sets, and booked guest speakers. The evening was filmed and recorded and we hope to edit that into a companion piece for the film. Eli and everyone involved absolutely tore the roof off.
This January we will begin editing and hope to get this out by late in 2018. We’re still seeking the final bit of financing as well so we can work steadily on the project and get it out sooner.
I think Eric didn’t want to end the movie on the sad note of Tim’s death. He reached out to me about putting together a tribute concert and I was immediately into it. The chance to play some of these songs with my fellow musicians was an amazing opportunity.
I knew we would need a house band of sorts, a backing group to provide whatever guests musicians needed to perform their chosen Brainiac songs. I immediately enlisted met fellow Late Night band member Seth Jabour on guitar, who toured with them in 1997. Matt Schultz was our choice for drums, being from Dayton and a cousin of Tyler’s, he also knew Brainiac intimately. From there we added bassist Geoff Sanoff, a DC native and member of Edsel.
Then Eric reached out to a bunch of the singers and performers he had interviewed for the movie, and a short list emerged. We got a list of songs together and the show was ready.
I have to say it was one of the best musical moments of my entire career. Brainiac was a tremendous talent and a huge influence on the independent music scene in the late 90s. To bring together all these great musicians, including the original members of Brainiac, to celebrate their legacy with passion and love was truly an amazing night.
You can see a sizzle reel from the Brainiac documentary here:
Subscribe to Brooklyn Vegan on
List of interviews:
Over 25 interviews shot (including: Cedric Bixler of Mars Volta / At The Drive In, Actor / Musician Fred Armisen, Producer / Musician Steve Albini, Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, Buzz Osborne of The Melvins, Melissa Auf der Maur of Hole / Smashing Pumpkins, Musician / Actor David Yow, Eli Janney of Girls Against Boys, Gregg Foreman of Delta 72 / Cat Power and many others).
photos by Keith Marlowe; big thanks to Sohrab from SAVAK